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The Empty Space in Structure Theories of the Zero from Gauthiot to Deleuze

Catharine Diehl
diacritics, Volume 38, Number 3, Fall 2008, pp. 93-119 (Article)
Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press DOI: 10.1353/dia.0.0059

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The empTy Space in STrucTure

TheorieS of The Zero from GauThioT To DeleuZe

Catharine Diehl
in his Course in General linguistics, ferdinand de Saussure notes that language may be content simply to contrast something with nothing [124].1 This principle provides the minimal condition for language to operate: for language to exist, it is necessary only for something to be contrasted or opposed to nothing. But for an opposition to be possiblewhether between two positive entities, a term and its contrary, or something and nothingthe elements of the opposition must be capable of determination: they must be identifiable as terms standing in relation to one another. But how can a nothing, by definition imperceptible and inapprehensible, be recognized in such an opposition? if, as Saussure asserts, the opposition between something and nothing is the most basic condition of language, then it must be possible for this nothing to signify without thereby becoming something; it must be identifiable as a zero. The history of the concept of the zero in the structuralist tradition reveals an intricate series of investigations into the problem of the signifying nothing. The idea of a linguistic zero can be traced to the Indian grammarian Panini, who introduced it in the fourth or fifth century BC to account for the deviation of the Sanskrit case system from the theoretical model he had proposed.2 The zero enters modern linguistics in a 1902 article by robert Gauthiot, a student of the prominent indo-europeanist antoine meillet. Saussure and his editor, charles Bally, then adopt this zero, making it a central element of structuralist linguistic theory. in an essay dedicated to Bally, roman Jakobson interprets the zero through what he takes to be the fundamental characteristic of linguistic structurethe contradictory opposition between determined and nondetermined terms. n. S. Trubetzkoy, Jakobsons contemporary, provides a taxonomy of concepts of position in linguistic structure, thereby making manifest the connections between the zero and structuralist topology.3 The zero comes to serve different functions, however, in later discussions of
1. Citations are to the marginal page numbers in the english translation of Saussures course in General linguistics, which correspond to the pagination in the critical edition prepared by tullio de Mauro. in what follows, i cite published translations where they exist, followed by references to the original texts. I have, in some cases, modified them significantly. Otherwise, translations are my own. 2. Allen describes Paninis procedure as the introduction of a fictional element, v, which is later cancelled out by annihilation. he notes that this resembles the technique of algebraists such as Fermat who introduce a fictional element but then set it equal to zero at the end of the procedure, thus canceling out the mistake [allen 108]. 3. i will use the term topology throughout to designate any theory of types of positions (topoi) and their relationships. no reference to the mathematical discipline of the same name is intended.

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structuralism outside linguistics: for lvi-Strauss, it ties structure to a continuous historical sequence; for Derrida, it provides an occasion to reflect upon the conditions of possibility for structure as such; and for Deleuze, it serves as a paradoxical generative element that orients structure. To clarify the unique difficulties presented by this linguistic zero, it is important to distinguish it from notions of the zero in algebraic, arithmetical, and philosophical discussions. Several prominent theorists of structuralism connect the linguistic zero to these other concepts, but before turning to their analyses, i will examine the linguistic zero in isolation. The specific character of the zero of structuralist linguistics depends essentially on the fact that oppositional relationships provide the criterion for membership in a structure. as Jean-claude milner remarks, the zero exists merely in virtue of satisfying the sole structuralist requirementthat an entity X contributes to distinguishing the entity y from the entity Z. Because the zero arises from this simplest form of linguistic opposition, milner writes that it plays such an important role in structuralist linguistics that one could make of it the very sign of structuralisms vision of the world [581]. first, structuralism in this sense must be distinguished from the theory of structure found in mathematical disciplines such as algebra, set theory, and category theory. Despite the fruitfulness of mathematical models in the social sciences, the mathematical concept of structure differs from the linguistic conception in one aspect crucial for our purposes: algebra is the study of objects and relations defined by their extensions, rather than of elements defined through oppositional pairs creating differences in signification.4 The structures investigated in algebra do not have zeroes in the sense we have described, even though they may contain elements called zero. For instance, every fielda specific type of algebraic structurecontains an element that leaves each element unchanged under the fields addition operation. In the field of real numbers, this additive identity element is named 0, but, unlike the linguistic zero, the real number zero does not stand in any oppositional relations. Second, both the linguistic and the algebraic zero are distinct from the natural number zero, the number that answers the question how many Xs? when no Xs exist. unlike the linguistic zero, here no signifying term stands in an oppositional relation. in his important discussion of the natural numbers in the Foundations of arithmetic, Gottlob Frege defines zero as the number which applies to the concept unequal to itself [74]. concept (Begriff) is freges technical term for any property or relation under which objects may or may not fall. (paradigmatic expressions naming concepts include predicates such as is/are a pear, is/are purple, and the like. concepts are thus in no way psychological in nature.) answers to the question how many Xs are there? are assertions concerning concepts in this sense; so, by saying that the number zero applies to the concept unequal to itself, frege merely asserts that we can answer zero to the question how many objects are unequal to themselves?5 In an influential text from Cahiers pour lanalyse, Jacques-alain miller attempts to derive a logic of the signi4. For an admirably clear, informative, and historically influential account of mathematical structure, see Marc Barbuts Sur le sens du mot structure en mathmatiques. it is probable that Barbuts article, which appeared in the 1966 issue of les temps modernes dedicated to structuralism, formed an important reference point for conceptions of mathematical structure in the period. in his history of the movement, Franois Dosse writes: When Sartres les temps modernes devoted a special issue to structuralism, its sweeping success was consolidated [history 1: 323; histoire 1: 393]. 5. As Ian Rumfitt points out, Frege strictly distinguishes in the Grundgesetze der arithmetik between the natural and the real numbers: it is not possible to enlarge the realm of cardinal numbers [anzahlen] to that of the real numbers; they are wholly distinct domains. the cardinal numbers answer the question how many objects of a given kind are there?, whereas the real numbers can be regarded as numbers giving a measure, saying how large a quantity is as compared with a


fier from Freges definition of zero [Suture 32; Un dbut 111]. I will briefly discuss millers analysis in the third section, arguing that he does not engage substantially with freges theory of the natural numbers, but instead reappropriates some of freges motifs in the service of a lacanian conception of lack. finally, the linguistic zero must be differentiated from the concept of nonbeing in the metaphysical traditionthe problem of to m on inaugurated by parmenides. We will ultimately rejoin this conception with Derridas claim that structuralism remains linked to the metaphysical tradition, but only after considering the unique perspective provided by the linguistic zero. Derrida should not be understood as claiming that a single concept of the zero exists across scientific and philosophical domains, but instead that the zero of structuralist linguistics raises certain problems that stand in conversation with those of the metaphysical tradition. in contrast to Derrida, Deleuze will maintain that all of these zeroes display the characteristic structure of a paradoxical object. 1 the Place of the Zero in Structuralist linguistics In his article Note on the Degree Zero, Robert Gauthiot defines the degree zero as an absence at the level of the phoneme that nevertheless has morphological value: But there is a particular type of alternation, no less universal, that it is appropriate to indicate above all: the one in which the variable elements, instead of alternating, disappear if the need arises. in effect, one sees intervening here a most unexpected morphological coefficient: the lack of a given element with exactly the same positive value as its presence under one form or under another. and if one calls degrees the different states of the phenomenon susceptible to alternation, it is useful to call its pure and simple absence the degree zero and to put this degree zero on exactly the same level as all the others qua grammatical index. [51] By claiming that the lack of a given element can serve as a grammatical index, this definition presupposes that an opposition between something and nothing on the phonetic level is sufficient to determine morphological function. The degree zero is an absence on one level that nevertheless signifies on another; it succeeds in doing so because it is a member of an oppositional pair. But this initial definition poses the problem of how an absence can be meaningful. how is it that an absence becomes a lack? This question has two parts. first, how does an absence come to acquire the meaning of a lack within language? Second, what serves as a criterion to differentiate the nothing that does not signify from a lack that can be opposed to something? These are the central questions that any linguistic theory seeking to account for the zero must pose.
unit quantity [Frege, Grundgesetze 2: 157, qtd. in Rumfitt 517]. In a footnote to his discussion, Rumfitt specifically applies this distinction to the case of the zero, writing: It is worth noting in passing that, when combined with another of Freges doctrinesviz. that affirmation of existence is nothing but denial of the number zero . . . this entails an ambiguity in the expression there is. This is because the zero that is denied by saying there is varies from case to case. When I affirm there is a golden mountain, i am denying the natural number. i am excluding the natural number zero as an answer to the question How many golden mountains are there? But in saying There is gold in Fafners cave I am denying the real number. I am excluding the real number zero as an answer to the very different question how much gold is there in Fafners cave? [538n5].

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perhaps the most famous structuralist concept is the sign, but does the theory of the sign provide the resources to distinguish an absence from a lack? it is charles Bally who first offers a sustained discussion of the zero using the concept of the sign as the fundamental unit of linguistic analysis. in his 1922 article, Zero copula and related matters, Bally distinguishes three phenomenathe sign zero (signe zro), the unsaid (sousentente), and the ellipsisin order to illustrate the difference between synchronic and diachronic considerations [8].6 Bally agrees with linguists who claim that the pure nominal phrase develops earlier than the copula and thus that the absence of the copula generally indicates a languages relatively primitive stage of development. he argues, however, that the lack of the copula in certain forms in russian, latin, and Sanskrit cannot be explained developmentally but must be accounted for in synchronic terms [2]. he begins by considering russian, in which the copula need not appear in the present indicative but must be used in all other tenses and moods. in russian, the absence of the copula in the present indicative is an instance of the sign zero (signe zro), which Bally defines as a sign invested with a determined value but with no material support in the sound and which is a function only of the grammar of a given language [3]. This definition differs from Gauthiots: while Gauthiot introduces the term degree zero to designate the lack of a linguistic element whose nature he does not specify, Bally relies on a concept of the sign as the unity of signifier and signified. Bally inherits this concept from Saussure, who defines a sign as the combination of a concept and an acoustic image, later using the terms signified and signifier.7 This definition, however, presents a problem in the case of the zero sign. if there is no material component in the signe zro, what can the acoustic image or signifier be? Can a linguistic theory founded upon the unity of signified and signifier allow for a sign that would signify even in the absence of any acoustic support? To determine whether the concept of the signe zro is coherent, it is helpful to consider Saussures brief discussion of it in the Course. Saussure invokes the sign zero in the passage mentioned above, in which he announces that the opposition of something and nothing suffices for language. In his discussion of the relation between diachronic and synchronic features of language, Saussure considers the czech word for woman, ena, which he identifies as in the zero degree in the genitive plural case (en). Saussure concludes from this example: So it is not even necessary to have any material sign in order to give expression to an idea: the language may be content simply to contrast something with nothing. In this particular example, we can recognize the genitive plural en simply by the fact that it is neither ena, nor enu, nor any of the other forms of the declension. At first sight it seems strange that such a specific notion as that of genitive plural should have acquired the sign zero. But that is precisely what demonstrates that it is purely a matter of chance. [12324] Tullio de Mauro notes that the term material sign is foreign to the terminological system that Saussure develops. . . . In fact, one reads in the sources: no need of always having an acoustic figure in relation to an idea. An opposition is sufficient and one can
6. although Saussure does mention the signe zro several times in the course [12324, 163, 254, 257], these remarks are isolated and brief. in light of this and Ballys role in the preparation of the course, it seems preferable to consider Ballys far more extensive discussions of the zero and to introduce Saussures own reflections in this context, instead of considering the zero in Saussure separately. 7. in our terminology, a sign is the combination of a concept and a sound pattern. . . . We propose to keep the term sign to designate the whole, but to replace concept and sound pattern respectively by signification and signal [Saussure 67].


have x/zero [Saussure 455n192]. We see, then, that Saussure explicitly endorses the possibility of a sign without an acoustic image; however, it is difficult to see how this can be compatible with his own definition of the sign as the unity of a signifier and signified. What could function as a non-material signifier? Ballys insistence on the formulation signe zro rather than zro signe suggests that the signe zro possesses a signifier, if one existing only in the marking of a position: The absence of any sign in the first case [the present indicative in russian] is interpreted as having the value not of zero sign [zro signe] but sign zero [signe zro] [2]. in the zro signe, the sign would be nothing (in other words, nonsignificative); in the signe zro, the zero itself would function as a sign. The absence or nothing in the signifier would nevertheless be united with a signified, because an empty position would take on significance; this position would function as a signifier and thus could be contrasted with other signifiers: x/zero. Saussures theory of the sign, however, does not explain how this empty position becomes significant: he says only that the zero is a testament to the arbitrariness of language. Since the opposition between something and nothing is the minimal condition for language, a study of the function of this oppositional relation itself is needed to account for the phenomenon. in 1939, roman Jakobson published an essay entitled Signe zro in honor of charles Bally. Jakobson generalizes the range of phenomena that he claims can possess a zero degree. Redefining the zero through what he calls a contradictory opposition between something and nothing [213], he frees the zero from the limitations of the theory of signs. although he elsewhere insists on the necessity of a phonic substrate and the privileged place of the phoneme in language, in his work on the zero, he treats the logical relation of opposition independently from the specific properties of phonemes.8 Starting from two principles about the zero introduced by Saussure and Bally, Jakobson demonstrates that the zero works analogously on phonological, morphological, grammatical, and semantic levels. He first states that since Saussurean linguistics considers the opposition of something with nothing to be the minimal condition of language, the notion of the zero must be examined [212]. After introducing an example of a zero inflection from Russian, he cites Ballys definition of the zero as a sign invested with a determined value but with no material support in the sound [213, quoting Bally 3]. using these two principles as a foundation, Jakobson argues that the zero appears at all levels of language. Whereas Bally was concerned with excluding any linguistic phenomena at the level of parole from the class of linguistic zeroes, Jakobson is willing to expand this class by taking the relation of opposition in general as his basis. To illustrate the idea of a functional, morphological zero, Jakobson introduces the paradigm exemplified by noga (leg/foot) and supruga (female spouse). The declension of noga and supruga uses forms equally applicable to certain words in the ambiguous or masculine gender (sluga [servant], nedtroga [sensitive]). Since these terms share the same form, they do not indicate gender, although they do give information about case: for the opposition of genders, the paradigm noga, supruga is devoid of the differential faculty. These are thus, from the point of view of gender, signs possessing a determined form but with no functional value, in short forms with the morphological function of
8. For Jakobsons argument that phonemes occupy a unique place in language and differ in their formal features from the units of other levels of language, see Zur Struktur des Phonemes, particularly the summary, where he writes: the phoneme is fundamentally different from all other acoustico-linguistic values and even from all other linguistic or semiotic values: it is a purely differential sign that signifies in and for itself nothing positive, unitary, or constant other than the mere fact of its being other [310]. in an argument that overlaps with the Copenhagen Schools critique of phonic substance, Derrida famously criticizes the phonocentrism of structuralismand of linguistics in toto [of Grammatology 2773; De la grammatologie 42108]. For a discussion of the relation between Derridas and hjelmslevs responses to Jakobson, see Mller-Wille.

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zero [213]. Therefore, with respect to grammatical gender (morphology), the noga and supruga paradigm possesses a zero degree. on the other hand, Jakobson remarks that the feminine gender specifies the sex of the person indicated, whereas the masculine does not, so the grammatical masculine functions as the gender of signification zero: We find ourselves confronted with a patent chiasmus: the forms with a morphological zero function (of the type supruga) denote the gender with the positive signification (feminine) and, on the other hand, the forms with a positive morphological function (of the type suprug) mark the gender with the signification zero (masculine) [213]. after demonstrating that morphological and semantic zeroes such as these conform to Ballys definition, Jakobson introduces the term contradictory opposition to characterize the opposition of something with nothing: it is exactly on the opposition of something with nothing, that is to say on contradictory opposition according to the terminology of formal logic, that the operation of the grammatical system is based, as i have tried to show elsewhere. thus, the nominal and the verbal systems can be decomposed into binary oppositions in which one of the terms designates the presence of a certain quality and the other (the non-characterized or unmarked term, in short term zero) announces neither its presence nor its absence. [213] Jakobsons statement should be read not only as generalizing Ballys principle, but also as shifting from the model of the sign to a new model. for Jakobson, the logical relation of the zero term to marked terms is primary. for the zero term to announce neither the presence nor the absence of a quality means simply that it is undetermined with respect to one linguistic feature. So a morphological zero, for instance, would be a term that does not carry morphological information even though it possesses phonetic or semantic traits. in stating that the zero indicates a noncorrespondence between different levels of language, Jakobson implies that language is essentially stratified. A sequence of terms can simultaneously bear phonological, morphological, and semantic information. information about one level (for instance, the semantic) is determined by an opposition on another level (for instance, the morphological). rather than treating this noncorrespondence as a marginal phenomenon, Jakobson considers the opposition between an information-bearing term and a term carrying no informationa zeroto be fundamental to the analysis of oppositional relations and linguistic structure in general. he states this programmatically in a lecture given later in 1939, where he further develops remarks made in the lecture honoring Bally: insofar as a nonpresence stands in a binary opposition to its corresponding presence, it thereby becomes a true semiological element. it proves ever clearer that these zero values present one of the most essential and rich linguistic categories. a complex is opposed to a similar complex with a missing element (zero element). [Das nullzeichen 221] for nonpresence to be semiologically relevant, two complexes must stand in opposition: one with a particular, positive feature and another lacking it. for a positive feature to be opposed to the absence of this feature, the absence must be determined as a lack. This determination occurs, Jakobson asserts, because both complexesthe complex with the positive feature and the complex lacking itare opposable; the part common to both complexes allows this opposition to function. Jakobson calls two complexes that stand in a binary opposition to each other correlations: Two phonemes (complexes of simultaneous phonematic properties) are correlative: xyz ~ xy. The second (unmarked) phoneme opposes to the first (marked) the absence of z, that is, it is a zero property [220]. What, 98

then, is a complex? Jakobson explains that a complex has both a bearer (trger) and a content (Gehalt), and that the zero form is either a trger without a Gehalt or a Gehalt without a trger: a content [Gehalt] without bearer [trger] . . . or, in reverse, a corresponding bearer without content . . . can be opposed [gegenberstehen] to a complex bearer / content [221]. The absence of a trait can be opposed to its presence, because each complex has two aspects, the trger and the Gehalt; even when one is absent, the complex can still be meaningful. When he discusses minimal phonemes, however, Jakobson confronts a limit case that reveals the difficulties of this theory. He claims that every element of language can be opposed to a zero element, including the phoneme with the sole characteristic z: the property z can, in some phonological systems, also function independently and, in fact, as a one-member phoneme. the lack of a phoneme in an otherwise similar complex of successive elements in this case will be assigned the value of the non-presence of this one-member phoneme. the Danish unaspirated initial sound in opposition [Gegenberstellung] to /h/ and the Greek spiritus lenis are examples of such a zero phoneme. [220] This zero phoneme presents an unacknowledged difficulty for Jakobsons theory of complexes. The so-called zero phoneme is a phoneme, because it is opposable to another phoneme of the language. This, after all, is the definition of a phoneme. Jakobson stipulates, however, that it has no phonologically relevant properties. Thus it seems that for it to exist at all within the phonological structurefor it to be a lack and not merely an absenceit must be constituted by phonologically irrelevant properties. To function as a member of a correlation, in other words, it must possess the status of a phoneme in virtue of properties that themselves cannot be opposed to others in a language. But how can phonologically irrelevant properties play such a role in a system that takes relevance as its sole criterion? perhaps, however, we have been too hasty in concluding that the zero phoneme must be definable through phonologically irrelevant properties. The problem arises because Jakobson introduces two different characterizations of what constitutes a phoneme: the first based on a differential relation to the other phonemes of the language, the second on the possession of certain phonologically relevant properties. These two descriptions seem to come apart for the zero phoneme, since it appears to satisfy the first but not the second definition. If we recall, however, that phonemes possess their phonologically relevant properties only in virtue of their differential relations with other phonemes, we will see how a phonological system can allow for a phoneme that stands in opposition to all other phonemes of the language but possesses no phonological properties of its own. The objection to Jakobsons analysis presupposes that linguistic phenomena are constituted as phonemes through their phonologically relevant properties and only thereby stand in relations of opposition. The reverse, however, is the case: phonological properties are themselves entirely dependent on oppositional relationships. This opens the possibility for the existence of a zero phoneme, since there can be a valid oppositional relationship that constitutes this linguistic phenomenon as a phoneme: in the example above, opposition to the phoneme with the sole property z. But can this really suffice to distinguish a zero phoneme from the absence of a phoneme? although Jakobson does not address this concern, one could respond that the zero phoneme can be present in all and only those places within a syntagma in which the opposition is in force. n. S. Trubetzkoy addresses precisely this concern in his discussion of the requirements for phonological structure. In his unfinished 1938 manuscript, Principles of Phonology, published posthumously one year later, Trubetzkoy describes the phonological structure of language through a taxonomy of oppositional acoustic relations. for Trubetzkoy, phonology studies the acoustic diacritics / fall 2008 99

properties of language insofar as these properties differentiate the meaning of words; thus, phonology defines acoustic features functionally. Trubetzkoy claims that in order to distinguish two things, those things must be opposable with respect to at least one property: The concept of distinctiveness presupposes the concept of opposition. one thing can be distinguished from another thing . . . only insofar as it is contrasted with or opposed to something else. . . . he describes the relation required for the distinction of one thing from another as a placing against (gegenberstellen) or placing counter (entgegenstellen); oppositional relations consist in this counterpositioning [Principles 31; Grundzge 30]. The members of oppositional relations are termed phonological unities (phonologische einheiten); thus, the unity (einheit) is constituted only through opposition. Trubetzkoy defines the phoneme as the smallest sequential phonological unity. phonemes must be sequential (aufeinanderfolgend), because they form the smallest elements of the sequence (reihe) that represents the signifying aspect of every word in the system of language [Sprachgebilde] [Principles 35; Grundzge 34]. phonemes are the minimal units of language capable of distinguishing one word from another. They are not linguistic atoms but bundles of distinctive characteristics. These characteristics are taken from the acoustic and articulatory properties that can be phonetically identified in any actual speech act. Such properties include voicedness, position where the sound is produced in the mouth, degree of closure of the mouth, and the like. These acoustic-articulatory properties, however, are merely potentially phonological characteristics; they become part of the content of a phoneme only if they distinguish the phoneme from other phonemes in the language. Trubetzkoy defines the content of a phoneme as the collection of characteristics common to all instantiations of the phoneme that differentiate it from the other members of the phonological system [Principles 66; Grundzge 59]. Thus, the phoneme receives a second characterization: one can say that the phoneme is the sum of the phonologically relevant properties of an acoustic form [lautgebilde] [Principles 36; Grundzge 35]. The phonological content of the German /k/ phoneme, for instance, can only be defined as tensed, non-nasalized, dorsal, and occlusive. These characteristics distinguish it from all other German phonemes. complete occlusion distinguishes it from /x/, non-nasalization from //, and so on. The phoneme is realized or symbolizedTrubetzkoy uses both termsin concrete discourse. The content of a phoneme is determined in relation to the phonological structure of the language in which it occurs, never existing independently from or outside of this structure: From what has been said it is evident that the determination of the phonemic content of a phoneme presupposes its prior classification in the system of distinctive oppositions existing in the language in question. The definition of the content of a phoneme depends on what position this phoneme takes in the given phonemic system, that is, in the final analysis, with which other phonemes it is in opposition. [Principles 67; Grundzge 60] place (Stelle) refers to the type of relation between a particular phoneme and the rest of the phonemes of a language: it is determined in the end by its placement counter to the other phonemes of the language (entgegenstellung). The content of one member (Glied) of an opposition is determined by its membership (eingliederung) in the total structure. The relation of membership is thus a precondition for the existence of each member. We have thus far seen two instances of place or position in Trubetzkoys description of phonological structure: the placing counter in oppositional relations and the placement of phonemes within the entire structure. These first two cases of position are paradigmatic: they define the field of phonological possibilities of the language, not the rules for linear

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orderings of elements. Trubetzkoy also discusses, however, a syntagmatic sense of position when he considers oppositions that function in some places within a phonological sequence but are neutralized in others. Trubetzkoy considers oppositions from three perspectives [Principles 6777; Grundzge 6069]: first, according to the relation of both members of the opposition to the rest of the system; second, according to the relation between the members of the opposition; and, third, by the extent of their distinctive validity (das ausma ihrer distinktiven Gltigkeit)whether the opposition functions in all places in a phonological sequence [Principles 67; Grundzge 69]. In his third classification, Trubetzkoy introduces his decisive contribution to theories of the zero: the analysis of neutralization [Principles 7778; Grundzge 6970].9 The opposition between /t/ and /d/ in German is one example of an opposition that is neutralizedceases to functionin the final syllable of words. In all other positions, /d/ has the characteristic of voicedness, distinguishing it from its closest phonological relative, /t/, which shares every other phonologically relevant characteristic with /d/ but lacks voicedness. Thus, /t/ is the unmarked member of the opposition, the member lacking the relevant distinctive property. at the end of words, however, the opposition is neutralized: the phoneme /d/ cannot occur at the end of a word and thus, Trubetzkoy argues, neither can /t/, because /t/ only exists as the unmarked member of the opposition through its relation to /d/. instead, a phoneme appears that contains all the distinctive characteristics common to the /t/-/d/ opposition. Trubetzkoy calls the totality of all distinctive characteristics common to an opposition the archiphoneme and terms the phoneme that appears where the opposition is not in effect the representative of the archiphoneme [Principles 79; Grundzge 7071]. his theory of the extent of an opposition relies on three basic concepts: places of neutralization (aufhebungstellen), the archiphoneme, and representation (Stellvertretung, literally taking the place of). he calls the positions in which the opposition is neutralizable positions of neutralization (aufhebungsstellungen) and those where it is in effect positions of relevance (relevanzstellungen); so, in the example of the /t/-/d/ pair, positions of neutralization occur at the ends of words, while positions of relevance occur elsewhere in words [Principles 7778; Grundzge 6970]. Trubetzkoy explains that the representative of the archiphoneme appears in those places in which an opposition is neutralized: in those positions [Stellungen] in which a neutralizable opposition is actually neutralized, the specific marks of an opposition member lose their distinctive force. Only those features which are common to both opposition membersthat is, which serve as the basis for comparison for the respective oppositionremain relevant. One member of the opposition thus becomes the representative of the archiphoneme of the respective opposition in the position of neutralization. By the term archiphoneme we understand the sum of distinctive properties that two phonemes have in common. . . . in effect, only those oppositions that can be contrasted with all other phonological units of a given system have archiphonemes. and it is this contrastive capacity that is the basic prerequisite for phonological existence in general. [Principles 7879; Grundzge 6970] The phonological unity functioning as the unmarked term in positions of relevance takes the place of or represents the archiphoneme in places of neutralization. Trubetzkoys principle raises a number of questions: what is an archiphoneme, and why can it only
9. For another account of neutralization in Trubetzkoy, see Schleifer, Deconstruction and linguistic analysis. Schleifer does not distinguish between the archiphoneme and its representative, a difference crucial to Trubetzkoys theory of neutralization and its contribution to the analysis of the zero phoneme.


be represented? Why does he introduce the concept of representation here? although Trubetzkoy does not discuss his grounds for introducing representation, the theory of the archiphoneme provides an explanation. The archiphoneme cannot appear in a phonological sequence, because it is not an element that can be opposed to other elements within the structure, but rather a principle: the basis of comparison (Vergleichungsgrundlage) [Principles 79; Grundzge 70] for an oppositional relationship. The archiphonemes of a phonological system found the one-dimensional oppositions of the system and thus determine its jointsthe way the different oppositions fit together to form an articulated structure.10 Because the archiphoneme determines oppositional structures, rather than entering into them as a member, it cannot appear in a phonological sequence. it is represented, however, when a phonological unity with the characteristics common to both members of an opposition occurs in a place where the opposition is not in effect. The representative of the archiphoneme serves as a zero in the same way as the noga/supruga paradigm of Jakobsons example, which lacks information about morphological gender. for Trubetzkoy, then, the representative of the archiphoneme is neither the marked nor the unmarked term but a unity with the characteristics common to both members of the neutralized opposition. it does not signal the presence or absence of the relevant trait but marks the effacement of that opposition. The distinction between the representative of the archiphoneme and the unmarked term proves pivotal to phonological structure. They are differentiated by the places (Stellen) where they can occur within sequences. Trubetzkoys sequential (aufhebungsstellungen and Relevanzstellungen) and representational (Stellvertretung) concepts of place differ from the place of an opposition as its synchronic relation to all the other oppositions in the language. The three uses are, however, linked: by appearing instead of the archiphoneme in sites of neutralization, the re-placement for the archiphoneme points to the paradigmatic place of the neutralized opposition within the phonological structure. When oppositions are neutralized, the mark signaling their neutralization itself displays the relation between the opposition and the rest of the structure. This zero marks or signals a point of articulation in the oppositional structure. Since the representative of the archiphoneme indicates the relation between the particular opposition that has been neutralized and the rest of the phonological structure, it functions as an intraphonological marker of the phonological structure itself. By teasing apart these three concepts of place or position in a linguistic structure, Trubetzkoy suggests a model that can account for the different forms of the zero in Jakobson. although Jakobson extends his analysis beyond the phonologicalhis example of the noga/supruga paradigm is morphological, for instanceTrubetzkoy provides a comprehensive account of the zero through his concept of the representative of the archiphoneme as undifferentiated with respect to the opposition between marked and unmarked terms. Trubetzkoys model shows that there is a fundamental disanalogy between two types of linguistic zeroes in Jakobson. Whereas the noga/supruga paradigm is an instance of a zero of neutralization, Jakobsons minimal zero phonemeappearing in an oppositional relation of the type z/zerocan only occur in places of relevance (Relevanzstellungen). Trubetzkoys systematic account of the distinction between places of relevance and places of neutralization responds to the problem of distinguishing a minimal zero phoneme from the absence of a phoneme.

10. Trubetzkoy specifies that only what he calls bilateral oppositionsoppositions in which the two elements share a common feature that no other elements of the system possesshave archiphonemes. For Trubetzkoys discussion of bilateral versus multilateral oppositions, see principles 6769; Grundzge 6062.

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2 From mana to the Floating Signifier: Lvi-Strauss and Derrida The concept of the zero enters claude lvi-Strausss structuralist anthropology not through Trubetzkoys systematic elaboration of phonological structure but through the short 1949 article notes on the french phonemic pattern, by Jakobson and John lotz, which includes a brief description of the zero phoneme in french.11 Jakobson and lotz write: a zero phoneme . . . is opposed to all other french phonemes by the absence both of distinctive features and of a constant sound characteristic. on the other hand, the zero phoneme . . . is opposed to the absence of any phoneme whatsoever [155]. This zero phoneme possesses neither phonological traits nor any fixed positive phonetic characteristics, but can assume differing phonetic guises. Jakobson and lotz devote only a paragraph to the zero phoneme, but their account retains Jakobsons earlier emphasis upon the logical primacy of the zero. unlike his earlier minimal zero phoneme, the zero phoneme appears here as an undetermined somethingJakobson emphasizes that it is material and not emptyrather than a determined nothing. The principle fundamental to Jakobsons analysis of the zero in the thirtiesthat its defining feature is the form of opposition that holds between it and the other member of its oppositional pairremains in the later definition. The zero phoneme possesses no distinctive features and thus stands in the relation of contradictory opposition to all other phonemes in French. The apparent inconsistency between the earlier and later definitions of the zero stems from the different levels of the nothing. Whereas the nothing in Gauthiot and Bally, as well as the earlier Jakobson, was defined by the absence of a material component, the nothing for Jakobson in 1949 consists in the zero phonemes lack of distinctive or constant features. in his 1950 introduction to the works of marcel mauss, lvi-Strauss adopts Jakobsons zero as a structural principle to account for a disparity between the signifier and the signified in anthropology. This disparity is developed in Lvi-Strausss discussion of mana, when he attempts to reconcile his notion of a linguistically structured totality, existing prior to its parts, with the always-developing, incomplete character of human knowledge. By transforming the zero phoneme into a compensatory principle, lvi-Strauss introduces a new relationship between the lack and the zero: in structuralist linguistics, the problem of lack lies in the imperceptibility of the zero phonemethe fact that the zero phoneme is bereft of phonemic characteristicsbut lvi-Strauss displaces the lack onto the signifying structure itself, making the zero phoneme the element that stands in for this lack. Lvi-Strauss first considers Mausss theory of mana. mauss uses the polynesian notion of mana to explain the unity of the social practice of magic. for mauss, mana is an undefined substance or force that serves to unify different elements of a practice into a whole. lvi-Strauss objects to this characterization of mana as an extra ingredient or power. he argues instead that, if mausss own insight that the totality must precede its parts is to be followed, mana cannot be considered an indeterminate substance added to the elements of structure in order to unify them. it must instead be conceptualized from the originary totality of the structure. lvi-Strauss claims that mausss most crucial contribution to anthropology lies in his method of reducing observed social
11. Jakobson and lvi-Strauss were friends and colleagues at the cole libre des hautes tudes in new York, where lvi-Strauss attended Jakobsons lectures. For lvi-Strausss own account of this influence, see his preface to Six lectures on Sound and meaning. For a history of the cole libre, see Mehlman, migr new york 19196. For a reading of lvi-Strausss introduction emphasizing his concept of the unconscious, see Mehlmans essay The Floating Signifier 2025.


phenomena to an underlying structure forming a totality.12 This procedure, lvi-Strauss notes, resembles Trubetzkoys and Jakobsons reductions of linguistic data to their phonological underpinnings: It will be noted that the operator technique is very close to that which Trubetzkoy and Jakobson were perfecting, at the same time as Mauss was writing the essai, and which was to enable them to found structural linguistics; for them too, it was a matter of distinguishing a purely phenomenological given, on which scientific analysis has no hold, from an infrastructure simpler than that given, to which the given owes its whole reality. thanks to the notions of facultative variants, combinatory variants, group terms, and neutralization, phonological analysis was precisely to create the possibility of defining a language by a small number of constant relations; the diversity and apparent complexity of its phonetic system merely illustrate the possible range of authorized combinations. [introduction 41; iMM xxxv] The parallel for lvi-Strauss between mausss anthropological method and the prague circles linguistic analyses lies in a reductive procedure according to which constant relations form the basic substratum that accounts for observable phenomena. a small number of operations allow the data to be reduced to an underlying structure defined by constant relations. This structural substratum forms the whole that precedes its parts, or elements. lvi-Strauss reproaches mauss with having abandoned his central insight that this structure must be logically prior to its parts in his account of mana as an extra substance that would unify the different parts of a social whole. lvi-Strauss claims that mauss forgets the idea of a prior totality because he operates with concepts of classical and not relational logic. What leads mauss astray is his reliance on an aristotelian model of predication wherein separate elements must be unified by a mediating term to form a judgment: he is the one who introduces into ethnographic criticism a fundamental distinction between analytic and synthetic judgment, a distinction whose philosophical origin is in the theory of mathematical notions. Am I not justified in saying that, if Mauss had been able to conceive the problem of judgment in terms other than those of classical logic, if he had been able to formulate it in terms of relational logic, then, along with the role of the copula, all the notions which take its place (he says it in so many words: mana . . . plays the role of the copula in a proposition) would have been undonenamely, mana in his theory of magic, and hau in his theory of the gift? [introduction 50; iMM xl] in mausss account, mana serves as the unifying force whereby different aspects of a social practicethe components of a judgmentare synthesized into a whole. Mana may thus be called the copula of such a social practice. lvi-Strauss argues that if mauss had recognized that a logic can be given on the basis of relations alone without recourse to a hypostasized copula, he would not have taken mana to be an added force unifying disparate elements. if mauss had followed his own insight that the relational structure
12. So the types become definable by these intrinsic characteristics; and they become comparable to one another, since those characteristics are no longer located in a qualitative order, but in the number and the arrangement of elements which are themselves constant in all the types [lvi-Strauss, introduction 3940; imm xxiv].

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serves as the sole foundation, he would have discovered that mana is only the subjective reflection of the demand for an unperceived totality [introduction 58; iMM xlvi]. according to lvi-Strauss, the function of mana is to bridge not distinct elements but the gap between signifier and signified. He compares the function of mana to an algebraic variable representing an unknown quantity: But always and everywhere, those types of notions [mana and related concepts], somewhat like algebraic symbols, occur to represent an indeterminate value of signification, in itself devoid of meaning and thus susceptible of receiving any meaning at all; their sole function is to fill a gap between the signifier and the signified, or, more exactly, to signal the fact that in such a circumstance, on such an occasion, or in such a one of their manifestations, a relationship of nonequivalence is established between signifier and signified, to the detriment of the prior complementary relationship. [introduction 5556; iMM xliv] Where the signifier and the signified do not correspond, mana stands in for the gap between them. It fills the gap by providing a term that designates what is not known, but it does so by marking it as unknown and not by making it recoverable. Why, however, should there be this gap between signifier and signified? If an original complementarity exists, what disturbs it? To explain the disparity between the signifier and signified, Lvi-Strauss offers an analysis of the opposition between signification and knowledge. Whereas signification is given in its totality, knowledge is only partial: So there is a fundamental opposition, in the history of the human spirit, between symbolism, which is characteristically discontinuous, and knowledge, characterized by continuity [introduction 60; iMM xlvii].13 The instantaneity of this bestowal of significance follows from Lvi-Strausss position that the essence of language lies in the constant, synchronic relations that underlie its concrete manifestations. if this logic of relations forms the basis of language, then one part or portion of language cannot be given before any other, since totality is the precondition for the existence of the elements.14 The complementarity of signifier and signified is es13. In The Floating Signifier, Mehlman argues that Lvi-Strauss displaces the Saussurian distinction between signifier and signified and projects it upon the opposition between langue and parole [2325]. While Mehlman is certainly right to point out that lvi-Strauss differs here from Saussuresince, for Saussure, the signified does not rely on the historical process for the accumulation of knowledgeit does not seem quite correct to say that lvi-Strauss really means the distinction between langue and parole. lvi-Strausss point, i take it, is that the relationship between signifier and signified is itself intertwined with considerations of the historical state of knowledge at a given time because the bond permitting signification relies on meanings which themselves are relative to this state of knowledge. 14. in reading capital, louis althusser argues that the priority of the structure with regard to its elements makes it necessary to construct a theory of a specifically structural causality that would explain the determination of the individual elements by this totality. according to althusser, Marxs capital represents an epistemological revolution, demanding the elaboration of this new notion of structural causal determination. the central concept Marx uses to express this structural causality, for althusser, is representation (Darstellung). Althusser locates the specific advantage of this term in the relationship it posits between presence and absence: it can be entirely summed up in the concept of Darstellung, the key epistemological concept of the whole Marxist theory of value, the concept whose object is precisely to designate the mode of presence of the structure in its effects, and therefore to designate structural causality itself [reading capital 188; lire le capital 404]. in a detailed reading of althusser, Badiou points out that this theory of structural causality depends upon the invisibility of the determining structure, its not being presented in the constellation of instances, but only represented [le (re)commencement 457]. in an important footnote, Badiou


tablished in this singular and sudden acquisition of significance; however, the knowledge that would allow them to be completely correlated is missing. lvi-Strauss argues that the incompleteness of human knowledge leads to an overabundance of the signifier: There is always a non-equivalence or inadequation between the two which divine understanding alone can soak up; this generates a super-abundance of the signifier relative to the signifieds to which it can be fitted [introduction 62; iMM xlix]. he goes on to make the surprising claim that it is the supplementary ration itself, the inequality of the signifier and the signified, that ultimately allows for the complementarity of signifier and signified [introduction 63; iMM xlix]. he argues that there must be a supplement for the complementarity of signifier and signified to be preserved, because the relationship between signifier and signified is threatened by a contradiction between the discontinuous nature of symbolic thought and the continuity of knowledge. This contradiction can be held at bay only through a supplement. if knowledge is continuous, then it will never achieve the totality that is characteristic of language. for symbolic thought to occur, knowledge must, however, be constantly progressing toward this totality. The progress of knowledge toward completion depends upon a supplementary or floating signifier [introduction 63; iMM xlix] designating the yet-to-be-discovered signified as that which is not yet given: i see in mana, wakan, orenda, and other notions of the same type, the conscious expression of a semantic function, whose role is to enable symbolic thinking to operate despite the contradiction inherent in it. . . . in that system of symbols which makes up every cosmology, it would just be a zero symbolic value, that is, a sign marking the necessity of a supplementary symbolic content over and above that which the signified already contains. . . . [introduction 6364; iMM xlixl] Thus, mana and related terms allow symbolic thought to accommodate contradiction. rather than abolishing contradiction, they localize and contain it by designating it with a zero symbolic value. a central implication of lvi-Strausss article is that contradiction belongs to symbolic systems as such, but that it is not fatal to them so long as it can be marked as a contradiction. Mana and the like do not carry any symbolic value, but they function as what could be called metasymbolic terms. They mark the necessity of a symbolic value that would supplement those that exist within the system; they thus compensate for a lack concerning the symbolic system itself. These metasymbolic terms or floating signifiers cannot simply be outside the system, however, but must also be elements within it, albeit elements that do not carry symbolic value.15 here we encounter a problem that suggests
adds that this relationship constitutes the fundamental problem of all structuralism and connects it to both lvi-Strausss introduction to mauss and to Millers Suture. For a fuller discussion of this point, see note 15 below. in addition to his analysis in Suture, Miller also develops the concept of structural causality in laction de la structure. i would like, at this juncture, to thank an anonymous reviewer for pointing out this connection. 15. in the (re)commencement of Dialectical Materialism, Badiou cites lvi-Strausss concept of mana as an investigation of what he calls the fundamental problem of all structuralism: the problem of the term with a double function which determines the membership of other terms to the structure insofar as it [the double term] is itself excluded from it [the structure] by the specific operation which makes it figure in the structure only under the form of its representative [le (re)commencement 457n23]. By linking mana to the problem raised by althussers concept of representation, Badiou implies that mana serves as a stand-in for the determining causality of structure itself. Although Lvi-Strauss does not specifically attribute causality to structure, we may

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the difficulty in postulating metasymbolic terms: the elements within a symbolic systemsignifiers and signifieds, in Lvi-Strausss analysisare defined solely according to their functional role within the system, that is, their value. Terms like mana are defined, however, precisely by their absence of value. They are supposed to designate a hole in the fabric of the symbolic structure and thus reestablish the complementarity between signification and knowledge. In virtue of what, then, can they themselves be said to belong to the symbolic structure? They do not have symbolic value and thus cannot be accounted for directly. instead, they must be posited theoretically on the basis of a prior requirement for coherence between signification and knowledge, but this requirement must also somehow allow them to function as elements within the structure. lvi-Strauss summarizes this doctrine of mana in a footnote crucial for both Deleuzes and Derridas analyses of structuralism. after quoting Jakobson and lotzs account of the zero phoneme, he concludes that the floating signifier performs the same function in anthropology as the zero in linguistics: Similarly, if we schematize the conception i am proposing here, it could almost be said that the function of notions like mana is to be opposed to the absence of signification, without entailing by itself any particular signification [iMM ln1].16 as we have seen, lvi-Strauss displaces the linguistic zero by making it traverse the boundary between the signifying structure and its exterior: its new function is to represent a structural rather than material lack. opposed both to all specific significations and to the absence of signification, Lvi-Strausss zero might thus be called a zero of signification. He thus further expands Jakobsons conception of the zero by making significationthe very essence of linguistic phenomenainto a differential characteristic itself capable of possessing a zero degree. in his 1966 essay Structure, Sign, and play in the Discourse of the human Sciences, Jacques Derrida uses Lvi-Strausss account of the zero or floating signifier to explicate the relation of the supplement to a finite ensemble, suggesting that the lack of what he calls a center of structure enables the movement of supplementarity.17 Derrida argues that totalization, by which he means knowledge of all relevant empirical phenomena, is impossible not primarily because human discourse is too limited to capture the immense field of empirical phenomena but because the logic of the field precludes any such totalization: If totalization no longer has any meaning, it is not because the infinity of a field cannot be covered by a finite glance or a finite discourse, but because the nature of the fieldthat is, language and a finite languageexcludes totalization. This field is in fact that of freeplay, that is to say, a field of infinite substitutions in the closure of a finite ensemble. This field permits these infinite substitutions only because it is finite, that is to say, because instead of being an inexhaustible field, as in the classical hypothesis, instead of being too large, there is something missing from it: a center which arrests and founds the freeplay of substitutions. [SSp 260; SSJ 423] Derridas use of totalization differs significantly from Lvi-Strausss totality: whereas for lvi-Strauss totality denotes the constant system of relations forming the substratum
nevertheless understand mana as responding to a demand made by structure itself: mana must restore the complementarity between signifier and signified in order to preserve the integrity of structure. 16. the quoted sentence is unaccountably absent from the english translation. 17. For an incisive reappraisal of the relationship between structuralist linguistics and socalled poststructuralist thought that focuses specifically on the issue of the void or nonplace and considers both Derrida and Deleuze, see Bosteels, Nonplaces 12529.


of linguistic and anthropological phenomena, for Derrida totalization would mean the delimitation of the entirety of relevant phenomena, an operation in principle impossible. By terming the constant relations a totality, Lvi-Strauss affirms that the lack leading to the floating signifier results from human limitation and does not reside in the structure, since this structure is in principle complete and forms the substratum of linguistic and anthropological phenomena. Derrida, however, argues that the lack resulting in the superabundance of the signifier follows from the structuralist method of reducing empirical phenomena to a finite field. In postulating a finite field which generates infinite permutations, structuralism commits itself to a lack at the center of structure, because, as finite, the field cannot ground itself. Derrida terms the movement of this uncentered structure a movement of supplementarity relying upon a floating signifier: One cannot determine the center, the sign which supplements it, which takes its place in its absencebecause this sign adds itself, occurs in addition, over and above, comes as a supplement. The movement of signification adds something, which results in the fact that there is always more, but this addition is a floating one because it comes to perform a vicarious function, to supplement a lack on the part of the signified [SSP 26061; SSJ 423]. The supplement is always added to the structure and can thus never serve as the ground for this structure. The zero does not, then, ground structure, since structure cannot have a ground, but it is nevertheless required for structure to exist. Derrida identifies this supplement with Lvi-Strausss zero, which is itself aligned with Jakobson and lotzs characterizations. for Jakobson as well, the zero is required for language; however, he conceives of the zero not as supplementing a lack within language itself, but rather as one element in the formal relation of contradictory opposition. in contrast, Derrida argues that a set of constant relations cannot serve as the self-sufficient ground for language but that the finitude of the rules of the game entails that there must always be a floating signifier to supplement the absent center. on Derridas analysis, lvi-Strauss maintains that structuralism represents a departure from a metaphysical tradition invested in the question of foundations. Derrida argues in response that it represents no such departure. in claiming that any structure necessarily relies upon a supplement which can neither ground nor account for itself in terms of this structure, he contends that structuralism cannot ignore the question of the historicity of structure but must constantly posit a floating signifier that exceeds the determinations of structure and cannot be contained by its principles of determination. Structure can never be self-contained, nor can it simply be conceived as a substratum of empirical phenomena. instead, it must always be posited in relation to something outside itself. The zerointerpreted as floating signifierstands both within and outside of the structure, allowing its freeplay to reach beyond itself and not remain isolated and static. 3 Deleuzes Empty Space in Structure Gilles Deleuze considers the importance of the zero as an element of structure in his 1967 text how Do We recognize Structuralism?, offering an account of the zeros role in structuralism that functions as at least an implicit rejoinder to Derridas claims in Structure, Sign, and play.18 for Deleuze, the zero functions as a non-sensical empty place, or
18. While Deleuze never refers to Derridas essay, it is unlikely that he was unfamiliar with Derridas text. la structure, le signe et le jeu was printed in Derridas 1967 collection of essays, lcriture et la diffrence, which Deleuze mentions in his 1968 Diffrence et rptition [Deleuze, Difference and repetition 31819n28, Diffrence et rptition 164n1]. Derridas and Deleuzes

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an absent center, creating order and orientation in structure. he claims that the zero is a wholly paradoxical object or element but affirms that it sets structure into motion and allows the circulation of the symbolic elements [hDrS 184; aQrS 321]. inscribing this non-sensical object or element19 at the center of structure, Deleuze maintains that structure cannot function without a paradox at its core. he claims, however, that although this paradoxical element escapes the reconnaissance around which his article is oriented, it is nevertheless the source of all sense. Why does Deleuze consider the zero to be a paradoxical object, and why is this zero an empty place? Deleuzes strategy, i will argue, is to take certain aspects of the zero that have haunted the accounts of Saussure, Bally, Jakobson, and lvi-Strauss and identify them as non-sensical sources of sense. Deleuze does not condemn structuralism for embedding a paradoxical element in the core of structure but rather views this paradoxical element as the generative force of structure. Deleuze begins his article by calling attention to the historical moment when the question What is structuralism? is posed, claiming that this question is relevant at the time he is writing only because the works of structuralism are not yet complete.20 This unfinished character lends the question its interest but also makes it impossible to answer [hDrS 170; aQrS 298]. Structuralism has value only to the extent that it animates new works which are those of today, as if the symbolic were the source, inseparably, of living interpretation and creation [hDrS 173; aQrS 304]. To ask for the essence of structuralism would be inappropriate because of this incompleteness, which requires a method suited to accounting for transformation or generation. Deleuze argues that structuralism can accomplish this by producing the symbolic object, and he emphasizes that structuralism does not attempt to find the essence of its object but rather constructs it: nor has it anything to do with an essence: it is more a combinatory formula [une combinatoire] supporting formal elements which by themselves have neither form, nor signification, nor representation, nor content, nor given empirical reality, nor hypothetical functional model, nor intelligibility behind appearances. no one has better determined the status of the structure as identical to the theory itself than louis althusserand the symbolic must be understood as the production of the original and specific theoretical object. [hDrS 173; aQrS 303-4]21
essays can both be read as articulations of what they take to be the philosophical commitments of structuralism. 19. the equivocation between element and object, and the inadequacy of both, is important here. The zero or empty place cannot simply be either an element or an object. It fails to meet the basic criterion for objecthood in the standard sense, self-identity, instead possessing properties, Deleuze claims, unique to the symbolic. The sense in which there are different criteria for a zero, proper only to the symbolic order, will be explored in what follows in connection with the question discussed earlier concerning the zero phonemes status. 20. Deleuze inscribes a date, presumably the date of the texts composition, in the essay: This is 1967 [hDrS 170; aQrS 298; emphasis in the original]. the article was not published in 1967, however, but rather in Chtelets histoire de la philosophie in 1972. he seems to be concerned with marking the text as belonging to a particular time, writing that the question is not only relevant now, but that it is relevant when this now occurs. Time is relevant for Deleuzes project, because he insists in this essay that the measure of structuralisms success is its productivity at the moment. Deleuze thus affirms the timeliness of theories but also claims that structuralism has its own theory of temporality. 21. in for marx, althusser writes: i shall call theory (with a capital t), general theory, that is, the theory of practice in general, itself elaborated on the basis of the theory of existing theoretical practices (of the sciences), which transforms into knowledges (scientific truths) the


The theoretical object is the object generated or recognized by the principles developed by structuralism. Deleuze organizes his text around seven criteria through which structuralists recognize a language in something, the language proper to a domain [hDrS 171; aQrS 300].22 Since for Deleuze all structure is linguistic, structuralism does not simply borrow from linguistics or apply its methods analogically but exists where it discovers language. To understand structuralism, we must ask how those called structuralists recognize language. Deleuzes answer in his first criterion is the discovery and recognition of a third order, a third regime: that of the symbolic. he continues: The refusal to confuse the symbolic with the imaginary, as much as with the real, constitutes the first dimension of structuralism [hDrS 171; aQrS 300]. Deleuze first differentiates the symbolic from the real and imaginary by enumerating the three orders: For the real in itself is not separable from a certain ideal of unification or of totalization: the real tends towards one, it is one in its truth. As soon as we see two in one, as soon as we make doubles [ddoublons], the imaginary appears in person, even if it is in the real that its action is carried out. . . . But perhaps, in turn, the symbolic is three, and not merely the third beyond the real and the imaginary. there is always a third to be sought in the symbolic itself; structure is at least triadic, without which it would not circulatea third at once unreal and yet not imaginable. [hDrS 172; aQrS 30203] in his sixth criterion, Deleuze argues that the object = x or zero phoneme is the third that allows for this circulation [hDrS 186; aQrS 323]. The threefold, circulating structure is based neither on a sensible formthat is, a figure of the imaginationnor on an independently intelligible entity. as Deleuze writes in the beginning of the second criterion, the elements of a structure have neither extrinsic designation, nor intrinsic signification [HDRS 173; AQRS 303]. For the elements of a structure neither to have extrinsic nor intrinsic determinations means that the elements themselves must be determined relationally. Hence the symbolic order can neither be defined by a preexisting reality that would exceed structure nor by an imaginary realm engendered by doubling. The symbolic order is instead a space given through position: Space is what is structural, but an unextended, pre-extensive space, pure spatium constituted bit by bit as an order of proximity, in which the notion of proximity first of all has precisely an ordinal sense and not a signification in extension [hDrS 174; aQrS 305]. This idea of a system of position anterior to extended space recalls Trubetzkoys articulation of three senses of positionthe paradigmatic, syntagmatic, and representational (stellvertretend)to delineate the system of phonological oppositions. for Deleuze, as for Trubetzkoy, ordering is fundamental to any structure. Structuralism is topological, since differential relations and singularitiesthe
ideological product of existing empirical practices (the concrete activity of men). this theory is the materialist dialectic which is none other than dialectical materialism [for marx 168; pour marx 169] . Later in the same text, Althusser discusses Marxs specific conception of structure and introduces the concept of a structure in dominance. [for marx 20816; pour marx 20622]. Deleuzes contrast between form and structure is similar to Althussers differentiation between a structure that would be grounded in a prior unity and one that is constitutively multiple. Despite this general proximity, Althusser does not seem directly to make the specific claim that Deleuze attributes to him, namely that theory is identical to structure. 22. although there are seven numbered sections in the essay, the last section is entitled Final Criteria: For the Subject to Practice, suggesting that the criteria exceed seven but not specifying a precise number.

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two fundamental determinations of structure according to Deleuze23create the space of a logical ordering which provides the condition for these positions to be filled empirically. The logical dependence of the empirical upon the topological inaugurates what Deleuze calls a new transcendental philosophy, in which the sites prevail over whatever occupies them [hDrS 174; aQrS 305]. The differential relations and singularities constitutive of this transcendental topology comprise the crucial philosophical innovation of structuralism. Differential relations form series in which the positions of the elements are fixed. Every structure, according to Deleuzes fifth criterion, must have at least two series: This reference to a second series is easily explained by recalling that singularities derive from the terms and relations of the first, but are not limited simply to reproducing or reflecting them. They thus organize themselves in another series capable of an autonomous development [hDrS 182; aQrS 305]. The relation between phonemes and morphemes serves as an example of such a correlation of series. even though morphemic series depend upon phonemic series, no series of morphemes is simply reducible to any phonemic series. it is at this point that Deleuze introduces the wholly paradoxical object or element [hDrS 184; aQrS 321] to address the problem of how different series within a structure relate to one another. he asks what prevents two series from falling back into a dyadic relation, based in the imaginary, in which these series would simply mirror each other. Deleuze writes: The factor that allays such a threat is seemingly quite strange. indeed, the terms of each series are in themselves inseparable from the slippages [dcalages] or displacements that they undergo in relation to the terms of the other. They are thus inseparable from the variation of differential relations [hDrS 183; aQrS 320]. Since, for Deleuze, the elements of a structure have neither intrinsic properties nor fixed meanings within a totality, the autonomy of these elements must depend upon their positions within the space of the structure. The elements cannot exist without deferrals and displacements, because only through the tropological or topological can a fall back into mirroring be prevented. This space is not itself a static entity, but is instead determined by a particular entity: What does it consist of, this object = x? is it and must it remain the perpetual object of a riddle, the perpetuum mobile? this would be a way of recalling the objective consistency that the category of the problematic takes on at the heart of structures. and in the long run, it is good that the question how do we recognize structuralism? leads to positing something that is not recognizable or identifiable. [hDrS 187; aQrS 326]24
23. Compare the third criterion, in which Deleuze uses three types of mathematical equations as examples of relations corresponding to the real, imaginary, and symbolic [hDrS 17678; aQrS 30812]. he distinguishes arithmetical, algebraic, and differential equations, claiming that his interpretation of the third is compatible with the methods of analysis after Weierstrass and russell. For Deleuze, this interpretation of differential relations provides the mathematical origin of structuralism. although the precise implications of this claim cannot be detailed here, it is noteworthy that Deleuze distinguishes structuralism from the theory of mathematical structures as understood in abstract algebra (groups, rings, fields and the like): It is true that Bourbaki, for example, uses the word structure. But this use, it seems to me, is in a very different sense [hDrS 17678; aQrS 309]. For a fuller elaboration of Deleuzes view, see Difference and repetition 17082; Diffrence et rptition 30812. 24. While it is not clear how we should conceptualize such an object, we might begin by drawing a distinction between an objects lack of self-identity and its difference from itself. if we interpret identity as a relation that only holds relative to a structure, then it might be considered inapplicable to the structuring element itself. this element would not, then, differ from itself since the relations


This object = x is the point of convergence between two series, and it provides a site of orientation for each. it is here that Deleuzes analysis reconnects with the concept of the zero. The linkage takes place through a privileged example: for Deleuze, the noncoincidence of the morpheme and phoneme series is to be explained by the zeros status as perpetuum mobile. endorsing and extending Jakobsons idea that the zero coordinates different levels of language, Deleuze sees the zero as an articulation of any two series whatsoever. he attempts to found this articulation on an ontology of the perpetuum mobile, calling this object = x its own metaphor, and its own metonymy [hDrS 184; aQrS 322]. This supremely kinetic object is always displaced in relation to itself [hDrS 186; aQrS 323], but it is that which creates the places of the other symbolic elements. Since only the symbolic can be missing from its place, this renders the zero the symbolic object par excellence. Deleuze introduces several examples to show the workings of this mysterious object and its omnipresence in structuralism. first, in lacans analysis of poes story The purloined letter, the letter serves as the common object of the various series of terms circulating within the structure and allowing the structure itself to circulate [hDrS 183; aQrS 322].25 The letter is an eminently symbolic object = x, providing the point of convergence for the other symbolic terms and demonstrating an extraordinary agility [hDrS 184; aQrS 322]. The necessity for the object = x is shown by lvi-Strausss invocation of Jakobsons zero phoneme in his explanation of the term mana. even the structuralist whom Deleuze terms the most positivist of all must yield to the demands of the perpetuum mobile: and even lvi-Strauss, who in certain respects is the most positivist among the structuralists, the least romantic, the least inclined to welcome an elusive element, recognized in the mana or its equivalents the existence of a floating signifier, with a symbolic zero value circulating in the structure. In so doing, he connects with Jakobsons zero phoneme which does not by itself entail any differential character or phonetic value, but in relation to which all the phonemes are situated in their own differential relations. [hDrS 186; aQrS 325] Here we must recall Deleuzes insistence, first, that structure only exists when language can be recognized in a domain and, second, that the fundamental units of language are phonemes. The phoneme is the element that most properly displays the differential relations Deleuze takes as characteristic for any structure. in his account of Jakobsons zero, Deleuze locates its paradoxical nature in its lack of any differential character or phonetic value, despite which it serves to orient all the other phonemes of a languagethat is, to construct a spatium. Deleuzes reading of Jakobson equivocates, however, between the two definitions of the phoneme considered earlier: the possession of specific phonological traits and the ability to stand in a relationship of opposition. in the latter sense, the zero phoneme does indeed possess a differential characterand, thus, existence in a languagebecause, as milner notes, such character is simply nothing more than the fact that the phoneme distinguishes one linguistic element from another [581]. Deleuzes interpretation of the lacanian object = x, the phallus, similarly reveals the distinctive aspects of his conception of the zero. he begins by asserting that the phallus
of identity and difference would simply not be defined for it. This depends upon considering identity not as an absolute relation but as only defined through a certain structure. It appears that something like this may lie at the base of Deleuzes claim, although interpreting it in this light would seem to remove at least some of the object = xs essential paradoxicality. 25. See lacan, Seminar on the Purloined letter 913; le sminaire sur la lettre vole 1518.

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is not so much an answer to the question of the origin of meaning as an unrecognizable term that itself delineates a problematic.26 he interprets lacans theory of the phallus through the concepts of movement and displacement; the phallus is missing in the sense of being always found there where it is not since it is not where one looks for it [hDrS 186; aQrS 325]. Deleuze thus touches upon the lacanian theory of the manque--tre, but he significantly alters Lacans account in the process. For Lacan, the phallus serves the function of signifying the lack in being [manque--tre] that is wrought in the subject by his relation to the signifier [In Memory of Ernest Jones 59495; la mmoire dernest Jones 710], while for Deleuze the phallus, rather than representing a lack of being, creates a system of placement by both having and evading its proper position. The significance of this departure from the psychoanalytic theory of the phallus as representing a lack in being emerges clearly in Deleuzes reappropriation of Jacquesalain millers concept of suture. immediately before introducing lvi-Strausss concept of mana into his discussion, Deleuze invokes millers notion of suture: in his effort to elaborate a concept of structural or metonymic causality, J.-a. miller borrows from frege the position of a zero, defined as lacking its own identity, and which conditions the serial constitution of numbers [hDrS 186; aQrS 32425]. although Deleuze maintains that the position of the zero is what lacks its own identity, miller writes instead that the zero consummates the exclusion of this object, its representation serving to render visible the lack. for miller, the zero stands in the place of a non-self-identical object, an object that has been excludedand thus is lackingby the requirement that Truth is [Suture 30; Un dbut 10506]. he describes the dynamic of the non-self-identical object as provoked-rejected by truth, instituted-annulled by discourse (subsumption as such)in a word, sutured [Suture 31; Un dbut 108]. The zero as number sutures, according to miller, the absence (of the absolute zero). This absolute zero is the non-self-identical object called forth and then dismissed. for miller, the process of suturing represents the subjects relation to the signifying chain [Suture 32; Un dbut 11011]. miller thus uses this account of suture to describe what he calls the logic of the signifier in the lacanian concept of a lack: in effect, what in lacanian algebra is called the relation of the subject to the field of the Other (as the locus of truth) can be identified with the relation which the zero entertains with the identity of the unique as the support of truth [Suture 32; Un dbut 11112].27 miller thus presents us with a dynamic familiar from lvi-Strausss reading of mana: the zero is invoked to stand in for a lack within the signifying structure itself. for lvi-Strauss, however, this lack was one of human knowledge, while for miller the lack is that of an absolute zero, the blank of the non-self-identical object: this lack is thus imposed by the very requirement of truth. although lvi-Strauss and miller end up with similar accounts of lack, they start from different conceptions of the zero. While lvi-Strauss transforms the zero of the linguistic tradition, miller reworks freges account of the arithmetical zero. i will consider briefly two aspects of Millers reconstruction that deviate from Freges argument. My
26. For a more involved discussion by Deleuze of the dynamics of excess and lack in Lacans concept of the phallus, see logic of Sense 22733; logique du sens 26572. 27. in an intricate and rich response to Millerwhich considerations of space prevent me from discussing hereBadiou offers several important criticisms of this portion of Millers thesis. Most prominent among them is his claim that suture is not a concept of the signifier in general but the particular characteristic of the signifying order where the subject comes to bar itself. let us call it ideology [Marque et Manque 162]. nevertheless, Badiou maintains, along with Miller, the primacy of the signifier in mathematics. Badiou returns to Millers reading of Frege in his 1990 work number and numbers, where he questions the role of number in Millers text, wondering whether that role is merely one of analogy and thus whether Millers text is not a text about number [28; le nombre et les nombres 41].


purpose here is not to critique miller as an interpreter of frege, but instead to argue that his displacements of Frege reveal a crucial swerve from a mathematical to a specifically psychoanalytic notion of the zero. in the end, the conception of the zero miller proposes will resemble much more closely the zero of linguistics than the natural number zero of freges theory. instead of indicating a convergence between the linguistic and the arithmetical zero, a close examination of millers appropriation reveals their dissimilarity. As mentioned in the introduction, Frege provides an explicit definition of the natural number zero in 74 of the the Foundations of arithmetic: zero is the number which applies to the concept unequal to itself.28 on millers reading, frege summons through this definition a non-self-identical object only to renounce it immediately thereafter as contrary to the demands of truth [Suture 30; Un dbut 106]. This thesis ignores, however, the fundamental difference in frege between concept and object. for frege, a concept is simply a property, something named by a predicate: there may be some object possessing that propertysomething that falls under the conceptor there may not be. To understand Freges definition of the number zero, it is important to bear in mind this relationship between concepts and objects: as mentioned in the introduction, statements of the form the number of Xs is n are actually assertions about concepts, specifically about how many objects fall under the concept X, rather than assertions about objects. in 58 of the Foundations, frege takes as his example the number zero: one will try in vain to picture 0 visible stars. To be sure, one can think of the sky completely covered up by clouds; but there is nothing in this picture which might correspond to the word star or to the 0. one is only imagining a situation in which one may conclude: now no star may be seen. numbers themselves, howeverincluding the number zeroare mindindependent, non-spatiotemporal objects [54].29 Thus, by asserting that the zero applies to the concept unequal to itself, frege does not, as miller claims, invoke a non-selfidentical object. As Frege notes, he could have chosen to define the number zero through
28. Frege provides this explicit definition only after offering a general implicit definition of number by stating a condition for the equality of numbers adopted from hume: When two numbers are so combined, as that the one has always an unit answering to every unit of the other, we pronounce them equal . . . [hume, a Treatise of human nature 71; qtd. in Frege, foundations 63]. Frege coins the term gleichzhlig (equinumerous) to describe the relation between two concepts when the objects falling under the first can be correlated with those falling under the second in a one-to-one fashion [foundations 67]. then, by identifying each natural number with a specific object that obeys this principle, Frege provides a complete criterion of identity for the numbers. In formulating these definitions, Frege introduces the notion of a concepts extension. In the Grundgesetze, Frege attempts to define an extension for any concept whatsoever. This principle of unrestricted comprehension leads directly to russells paradox; however, as recent philosophers of mathematics have shown, weaker assumptions suffice for Freges definition of number in the foundations of arithmetic and do not lead to paradox. Papers discussing both this issue and humes Principle are to be found in the collection freges philosophy of mathematics edited by William Demopoulos. My thanks to B. Madison Mount for this specific reference and for his invaluable guidance on Freges philosophy of mathematics. 29. Miller interprets numbers as forming a third ontological category for Frege: You will be aware that Freges discourse starts from the fundamental system comprising the three concepts of the concept, the object and the number [Suture 27; un dbut 101]. But there does not seem to be any textual basis for this claim. in 54 of foundations, Frege writes: each individual number is an independent object. Charles Parsons lays out the central elements of Freges position in three theses: (1) having a certain cardinal number is a property of a concept in what we may take to be Freges technical sense. it appears that the basic type of singular term referring to numbers is of the form the number of objects falling under the concept F, or, more briefly, the number of Fs, or in symbolic notation nx Fx. (2) numbers are objectsagain in Freges technical sense. (3) arithmetic is a part of logic [183].

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any concept under which no object falls; he chose unequal to itself merely because it presented itself most comfortably [74]. millers reading, however, departs from freges construction in another regard that is perhaps still more informative with respect to the specificity of Millers concept of lack. in a paragraph critiquing John Stuart mills philosophy of mathematics, frege sharply distinguishes the symbols used by mathematicians from the objects denoted by them. although mathematicians might not conceive of anything perceptible falling under their symbols, that does not mean that the symbols have no sense. We still distinguish between the symbols themselves and their content, even though it may be that the content can only be grasped by their aid [16]. In his definitions of numbers, Frege is specifically not interested in the names of numbersthe numeralsbut in the numbers themselves: for Frege, the numbers cannot stand in relations of signification. In contrast, Miller is concerned above all with the dynamics of inscription: The 0 which is inscribed in the place of the number consummates the exclusion of this object [the non-self-identical object]. as for this place, marked out by subsumption, in which the object is lacking, there nothing can be written, and if a 0 must be traced, it is merely in order to figure a blank, to render visible the lack [Suture 30; Un dbut 106]. miller focuses on this mark because he wishes to construct a logic of the signifier that would elucidate Lacans theses concerning the relationship between the subject and the signifying chain. Since the drama of the subject in the word is the experience of its lack of being [manque--tre] for lacan [Remarks on Lagache 549; Remarque sur Lagache 655], a logic of the signifier itself must condition any discourse regarding being.30 millers concept of suture obeys this imperative precisely, parting ways definitively from Freges account of numbers. as i have argued, philosophical and anthropological interpretations of structuralism make use of the zero to depict a tear in the spatium of structure; the zero reveals, according to these accounts, the logical limits of the reconnaissance proper to structuralism. The eminently symbolic object, the zero, is thus necessary for structure to function but itself escapes from any inquiry proceeding in accordance with structuralist principles. To posit such an object is to mark the necessity of an opening within structure: the zero is a condition of transcendental topology, but it can have no placeit cannot be defined in terms of placein any topology. nor can it belong to an outside of place. on this analysis, the zero thus perforates not only the spatium but also the structuralist paradigm of cognition. for linguists from Saussure to Jakobson, however, the zero phoneme articulates precisely the topological commitments of structuralism: it is because of the fundamental primacy of the oppositional pair that an imperceptible element must be posited. as we have seen, positing such an element implies a topology. Trubetzkoys nuanced taxonomy of position provides the best example of the groundwork required for such a theory. Departing from this model, however, lvi-Strauss sees in the zero an element that functions both inside and outside of structure. as i have argued, this appropriation represents a displacement of the sense of lack as originally considered, but the displacement is not arbitrary. lviStrausss zero of signification takes the concept of contradictory opposition and extends it to account for the relationship between structure and its outside. The zerothe structuralist element par excellencethereby becomes the exemplary object for considering the
30. Stephen Heath provides a concise summary of the primacy of the signifier in Lacan and Miller: Thus, crucially, the Other in Lacan is the radical thesis with respect to language of the primacy and materiality of the signifier: language imposes being. . . . Far from the necessity that being be for me to speak of it, I must first of all speak for the problem of being to arise, the problem, for instance, of whether or not anything exists which corresponds to or satisfies what I am saying (hence in Miller the supporting of truth from the relations of subject and signifiying chain) [50].


relation of structure to that which exceeds it: the zero becomes the representation within structure of the center it lacks. The fundamental conflict between Derridas and Deleuzes accounts of structuralism in the 1960s emerges from their judgments concerning this type of zero. Both state that a zero is necessary for linguistic structure to function, but Derrida argues that the problem of a zero element arises through structuralisms attempt to circumvent the question of origin, while for Deleuze it is precisely the paradoxical nature of the perpetuum mobile that frees structuralism from unproductive foundationalism. in contrast to Derrida, Deleuze rejects the thesis that the zero stands in for a lack in structure: the perpetuum mobiles self-displacement does not gesture toward something absent from or standing outside of structure. for Deleuze, structure requires no supplementation. The task that would remain for him, of course, would be the construction of a concept of motion that would not itself rely upon an antecedent concept of position. This would have to be a nonextended motion that would precede the order of spatialization, the movement of an object whose irreducible dynamics would create the possibility for structure. The wager of structuralism, in Deleuzes dynamic reconstrual, would be to produce a perpetual motion machinefor only such an object could serve as the transcendental condition for structure. The claim of how Do We recognize Structuralism? is that such a machine is already moving the gears of structure, but this text does no more than sketch a few parts that such a machine would have to have. The ultimate value of the concept of the zero is not dependent, however, on the resolution of this debate between Deleuze and Derrida: it lies instead in the zeros potential to demarcate the relationship between structure and its outside. WorkS ciTeD allen, W. S. Zero and panini. indian linguistics 16 (1955): 10613. althusser, louis. For Marx. Trans. Ben Brewster. new york: Vintage, 1970. Trans. of Pour Marx. 1965. 2nd edn. paris: la Dcouverte, 1996. ________ . tienne Balibar, roger establet, pierre macherey, and Jacques rancire. reading Capital. Trans. Ben Brewster. london: new left Books, 1970. Trans. of lire le Capital. 1965. rev. ed. paris: puf, 1996. Badiou, alain. marque et manque: propos du Zro. Cahiers pour lanalyse 10 (1969): 15073. ________ . number and numbers. Trans. robert mackey. cambridge: polity, 2008. Trans. of le nombre et les nombres. paris: Seuil, 1990. ________ . le (re)commencement du matrialisme dialectique. Critique 240 (1967): 438 67. Bally, charles. copule zro et faits connexes [Zero copula and related matters]. Bulletin de la Socit de linguistique de Paris 12 (1922): 16. Barbut, marc. Sur le sens du mot structure en mathmatiques. les temps modernes 246 (1966): 791814. Bosteels, Bruno. nonplaces: an anecdoted Topography of contemporary french Theory. diacritics 33.34 (2003): 11739. Deleuze, Gilles. Difference and repetition. Trans. paul patton. new york: columbia up, 1994. Trans. of Diffrence et rptition. paris: puf, 1968. ________ . how Do We recognize Structuralism? Desert Islands and Other Texts, 19531974. [hDrS] Trans. michael Taormina. ed. David lapoujade. los angeles: Semiotext(e), 2004. 17092. Trans. of quoi reconnat-on le structuralisme? [aQrS] le XXe sicle. Vol. 8 of histoire de la philosophie: ides, doctrines. 1972. ed. franoise chtelet. 8 vols. paris: hachette, 2000. 299335.

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